Nipah Virus is a zoonotic virus carried by bats which has a higher mortality rate than other viral infections including COVID.
The health department of Kerela has increased surveillance for Nipah virus in the state and advised hospitals to monitor patients reporting symptoms like the viral infection. The alert has come as the breeding season of bats that carry the virus has begun.
Kerela Health Minister Veena George said monitoring will be increased in all districts of the state, even though the viral infection had been previously reported only in Kozhikode and Ernakulam, New Indian Express reported.
Symptoms of Nipah
According to a press release issued by the Health department, hospitals, especially emergency/casualty wings, are alerted to be on guard against patients who come with Nipah-like symptoms that include fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsions and diarrhoea.
Kerala has had three Nipah outbreaks in the past. The first outbreak occurred in 2018 in Kozhikode in which 16 people died. Another was reported the following year in Ernakulam, but no one died. Again, a lone case in Kozhikode was reported in 2021, in a 12-year old boy from who died later. The Nipah virus has a higher mortality rate than other viral infections.
As per reports, fruit bats are considered the source of Nipah virus, though a link of transmission from bats to humans has not been established yet. It can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from infected people. It is considered an emerging infectious disease threat by the World Health Organization.
How to avoid Nipah infection
The WHO says that to reduce the risk of exposure one must avoid contact with at risk or infected animals. It also advises to avoid consuming fruits partially eaten by bats and avoiding drinking raw date palm sap/toddy/juice during this time. The health department has asked resident to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before consuming.
Measures taken by the state
The health department has announced that bat surveillance would be strengthened in all districts and people have been alerted on the need to be on guard against Nipah. Forest, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry departments would be involved in all surveillance and to perform preventive measures.
A vigil against the virus will be carried out with the cooperation of the forest and animal husbandry departments to spread awareness among people. Also, as part of Nipah prevention and awareness, the health department will organise a workshop on May 12 in Kozhikode to discuss the state’s experience and learnings from the past outbreaks. The workshop will be attended by representatives from ICMR, NCDC, NIV Pune, and experts in community medicine, microbiology and medicine from Medical Colleges and officials from Forest, Animal Husbandry departments. Health Minister Veena George will be at the workshop.
First Published: IST